FOOD, FACTS and FADS

Exploring the sense and nonsense of food and health


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Why Dieting Can Make Us Fat

Since we are a nation obsessed by weight loss, it is so important to realize that chronic dieting itself can make some people overweight or obese as a result. There are many reasons why our bodies resist weight loss and more than likely it is due to a fear of starvation. This involves the neuro-endocrine system and we have many mechanisms to prevent this threat to our existence.

This is more than likely involving our set -points defined as “a level at which body fat or body weight seems to resist change despite changes in energy intake or output.” The set point for each of us is largely determined by genes. Signals related to food intake affect hunger and satiety (feeling of fullness) over short time periods while signals from the adipose tissue trigger the brain to adjust to both food intake and energy expenditure for long-term regulation. The  two primary hormones involved are ghrelin and leptin. Ghrelin is a peptide hormone produced  by the stomach that stimulates food intake and leptin is a peptide hormone produced by fat cells that signals information about the amount of body fat. The interactions are complex and better left to more academic discussions than in this blog post.

If you diet frequently, you should understand some of the implications of these interactions. The following article is a long read but it is important to know the facts – the best action is to prevent weight gain if possible so that we do not have to deal with its effects later on.

Weight management is possible by putting into practice the following simple suggestions.

Balance your intake and output, for example, weight yourself once a week; if the number goes up, cut down your calories.

Cut down on calories, e.g. bring your own lunch rather than eating out.

Don’t get too hungry – fill up on high fiber foods.

Increase activity – Take a walk during lunch break or after dinner.

Avoid fad diets – they only lead to the problem.

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The Best Advice for Weight Loss

An article from Women’s Health provides sound and simple advice for weight loss that often gets missed or ignored when one follows fad diets. You have probably heard of most of these tried and true suggestions before, but when you put them all together, they just make a lot of good sense. No fads, just the facts based on evidence.

I might add to be aware of portion sizes. Follow the rules of measuring or estimating portions by using your hands: a fist = 1 cup; a cupped hand = 1/2 cup; a meat serving (3 oz) is about the size of your palm; a tablespoon = your thumb and a teaspoon = the tip of your  thumb. There is no need  to weigh foods on a scale. Keeping a food diary or journal is also a helpful idea to increase awareness of what you actually eat each day.

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Brain Supplements?

How many times have we heard  this advice?  Get your nutrients from foods, not supplements. When there is any effect, more than likely it is working through the placebo effect.  As a general rule, if you eat less than 1200 kcal a day, you may consider taking a multivitamin/multi-mineral supplement. Also if you are a vegan, you should consider getting your vitamin B12 from fortified foods.   A B12 deficiency is more likely due to a problem from poor absorption rather than from a low intake alone. Even though vitamin B12 is a water-soluble vitamin, blatant deficiency is rare because the body stores and reuses it efficiently. Check with your doctor about your vitamin B12 status and diet supplement use especially if you are elderly or on a restricted diet of any kind.

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Big Food in Brazil = SAD

Soon all the “healthy” traditional diets of the world will be replaced with ultra-processed “big food” loaded with sugar, fat, and salt. If we think that obesity and chronic disease rates are high now, just wait a few years. It is well known that as the so-called Western diet or Standard American diet (SAD) invades traditional cultures, heart disease rates and obesity increase. This appears to be happening in Brazil according to an article in the NYT. There is a link to the full article in Dr. Nestle’s post. It is a long read, but the bottom line is that the large food companies, like Coca Cola and Nestlé  (no relation to Dr. Marion Nestle) have found new markets and delivery systems in poorer countries. This quote says it all:

‘For some companies, that can mean specifically focusing on young people, as Ahmet Bozer, president of Coca-Cola International, described to investors in 2014. “Half the world’s population has not had a Coke in the last 30 days,” he said. “There’s 600 million teenagers who have not had a Coke in the last week. So the opportunity for that is huge.”

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Diet or Sugar: Which Soda?

I once met a client whose doctor had referred her to me for diet counseling. She drank 15 cans of Dr. Pepper a day and complained of some stomach issues. She threatened to sue Dr. Pepper. The remedy as you can probably tell: Both the doctor and myself told her to stop drinking the soda.  Do you think she followed our advice? Probably not.  Each can of Dr. Pepper has 64 grams of sugar. Diet Dr.  Pepper has 123 grams of aspartame. For our 15 can/day situation, you can do the math and in either case, diet or not, there are concerns.

FYI: Here is the aspartame content, in order from least to most per 8-ounce bottle: Sprite Zero (50 mg), Coke Zero (58 mg), Pepsi Max (77 mg), Diet Pepsi and Caffeine-Free Diet Pepsi (111 mg and 118 mg, respectively), Diet Dr. Pepper (123 mg), Diet Coke and Caffeine-Free Coke (125 mg).

Whether the soda is diet or not, over indulgence can both have consequences. The following article from Fooducate discusses diet soda and offers a novel solution: WATER.

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